Infanticide, especially female infanticide, which is killing a baby girl after it is born, had been practised by many societies in a variety of stressful situations.
‘From the Golden Age of Greece to the Splendour of the Persian Empire’, parents had murdered children. In the 19th century the medical journal ‘Lancet’ had to write an editorial against the practice in England. Darwin ‘believed that infanticide, especially of female infants, had been the most important restraint on the proliferation of early man’. In Arabia, it was a common practice till the Holy Quran prohibited it.
Early Christians used to ‘discard’ or ‘throw out of the house’ unwanted girl children. Saint Justin Martyr (114-166 A.D.) and Clement of Alexandria (150-211 A.D) warn against this practice for fear that these children, who, as a rule, grew up as prostitutes, might cause the grievous sin of the father having intercourse with his own child. Even as late as in 1966, out of the 10,920 murders recorded in the US almost 5% were parents killing children. In India, data reveal that 22.8 million female infants ‘were missing’ in the last century.
What is now spreading in some countries like ours is not infanticide of the female, but foeticide which means killing the foetus inside the womb. Sex–selective induced abortions carried out, after determining the sex of the unborn baby through the use of ultrasound scan and amniocentesis, are becoming common place in India, especially in some states, creating ‘daughter drought’ with dangerous socio-economic consequences. The reasons are not actually related to poverty, as in the olden times, as we can see from the fact that the comparatively poor states are better in sex ratio.